Regent Street & Oxford Street, London
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A report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and accountancy firm KPMG has showed the biggest decline in retail sales figures since records began.
Jane Imrie

"Biggest decline on record" for UK retail sales

A report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and accountancy firm KPMG has showed the biggest decline in retail sales figures since records began.

The report showed a 2.7 per cent drop in sales in May, compared with 2018 figures, and is the largest decline since records began in 1995.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, commented: “With the biggest decline in retail sales on record, the risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase.”

The report follows the collapse of several high street chains so far in 2019, including department store Debenhams, restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian, retail group Arcadia and fashion store Select.

Attributing the drop in sales to challenges faced by businesses operating physical stores, the BRC has called for the government to take steps to refresh the high street.

Helen explained: “With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, politicians must act to support the successful reinvention of our high streets and local communities.

“Business rates remain a barrier, preventing many retailers from investing in their physical space. We have a broken tax system, which sees retailers paying vast sums of money regardless of whether they make a penny at the till, and yet the government is failing to act.”

The struggle has also been seen in online retail in the report, with non-food sales slowing to 1.5 per cent.

Paul Martin, UK retail partner at KPMG, added: “April may have provided retailers with some light reprieve thanks to Easter, but May’s staggering fall of 3% like-for-like is a stark reminder of the industry’s ongoing issues, which for many require urgent attention.

“The extremely low growth online is real cause for concern, especially with almost a third of all non-food sales today being made online. This trend has continued to manifest itself over the last year and requires real focus from the retail community.”

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